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Solo Sailing: An “Ordinary Girl”, Voluntary Risk-Taking and (Ir)Responsibility

This article draws on material associated with a solo sailing circumnavigation, undertaken by 16 year old Jessica Watson in 2009–2010, to discuss how her voyage provided a focal point for debates relating to voluntary risk-taking conducted within the sport and leisure context. Specifically, we illustrate how public and media commentaries on her voyage reflect discourses of risk being infused and conflated with discourses of responsibility, youth and gender. Our analysis brings to the fore the contested, moral and political nature of risk discourses in contemporary western society. Public reaction to Watson’s voyage indicates that descriptions of western society as risk-averse fail to capture the situated and dynamic perceptions of risk.